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Making your Carpets More Eco-Friendly

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 24 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Eco-friendly Carpet Eco-friendly

While we would all love to always choose the eco-friendly options when it comes to flooring, sometimes – due to finances, availability of suppliers, practicality, climate or other restrictions – we are unable to go for a completely natural fibre flooring or sustainable timber flooring. Sometimes, it just has to be carpet. However, in those cases, it is still possible to minimize the impact to the environment by being aware of a few things and taking the time and effort to check that certain components are replaced by more environmentally-friendly alternatives.

Make Your Carpets More Eco Friendly

One of the main enemies of the environment is petroleum, which is not only a non-renewable resource but also consumes large amounts of energy in its extraction and processing and produces vast amounts of toxic waste. Unfortunately, petroleum products – such as polypropylene – is used in the manufacture of many carpets, most notably in the adhesive yarns of the carpet backing and in any padding. So to reduce the impact of petroleum on the environment, choose a carpet that has lightweight backing. In addition, choose one which requires no extra padding or if you must use padding, choose a type that is made form recycled materials. Several specialist suppliers now provide 100% recycled cotton padding, whilst mainstream carpet manufacturers will also often provide recycled “rag pads”.

When installing your carpet, make sure you choose non-chemical based glues. Not only are these toxic to the environment but they may also be hazardous to your health, especially if you have respiratory problems. Choose water-based, low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) glues when installing the carpet. Alternatively, an easy and safe alternative to using adhesives is to tack the carpets down.

Most traditional carpets contain many non-biodegradable materials, meaning that they will clog up landfills for up to 20,000 years. Considering that millions of carpets and rugs are tipped into landfills each year, this causes a considerable impact to the environment. You can help to minimize this impact by thinking carefully about how you dispose of your old carpet. Perhaps you could donate it to be used by others or even recycle. In some places, it may be possible to purchase from a company that will offer these two services – or you may be able to find a specialist carpet recycler. Remember also that a professional carpet repairer can inject new life into your carpets through reweaving, refringing, dyeing or even just mending your old carpets.

The type of carpet you choose makes the most difference to the environment. Nowadays, with the growing awareness of ‘green issues’, many companies are offering alternative products which provide you with an environmentally-friendly option. For example, there is now a wide range of carpets made from natural fibres that have had very little or no chemical treatment. The yarns could be dyed with vegetable due. They can also have backing and padding made of renewable natural fibres or 100% recycled material – and these can be attached with adhesives of a less toxic type.

Alternative to traditional, synthetic carpets include sisal, jute, seagrass and of course, pure wool.

Lastly, carpet tiles are another way to reduce your ecological impact, as then you can just replace smaller sections as they become damaged or worn, rather than replacing the entire carpet.

Don’t forget rugs – just because they do not cover your house wall-to-wall does not mean that they don’t carry a significant ecological footprint. Again, look for rugs that have been made in ways which reduce nylon and petroleum by-products and which use less resource-intensive materials.

As we become gradually more aware of the impact many human activities have on the environment and the damage we are causing by misusing, wasting or destroying resources, many of us are beginning to choose ecologically-friendly alternatives. Even when you have to choose a more damaging option, like carpet, it is still possible to reduce the ecological impact by making small changes.

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